Monday, 30 April 2012 at 12:11
A week or two ago it was announced on one of the HacDC
mailing lists that we'd been given a pair of tables at the second USA Science and Engineering Festival
which was held this past weekend. It was a call to members who wanted to exhibit their work during the festival, and not a few of us threw our headgear into the ring. Rather than hold a Byzantium development sprint this weekend Sitwon, Haxwithaxe, and I met at HacDC to mass-produce demo CDs of Byzantium Linux to give out at our table along with the HacDC stickers, postcards, and brochures. It took us an hour or two to figure out how to work the CD duplicator but once we got it going (which consisted of finding the unattached plastic bit that was hanging up the duplicator's robotic arm and forcing an unhandled error condition in the software) we manufactured, tested, and labeled a spindle of Byzantium CDs. We also spent some time hanging out with a visiting hacker, Matteo Flora
from Italy who is on a hackerspace tour in the States this month.
The next day I woke up far too early on a Saturday, attired myself suitably in my ceremonial labcoat and loaded my gear into the TARDIS for the jaunt to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown DC. The drive to the Center wasn't too bad; finding parking proved to be something of a challenge but I found a lot a block or two away for a reasonable price ($20us/day - reasonable for downtown DC, anyway). Finding the HacDC table proved to be the problem, however. I arrived more or less on time but wandered around for the next hour in search of our tables. Nobody at the info desk knew. None of the staff wandering around knew. None of the exhibitors I spoke to knew. A helpful woman representing the ARRL
got me pointed in the general direction of where it would be but, much to my panic, the row of booths where HacDC's tables should have been was practically barren. Later, I discovered that we'd been moved with the other hackerspaces and DIY groups, such as Parallax
, the Astromech Builder's Group
, and Baltimore Node
. Total time spent lost wandering around a standing room only convention center that covers two city blocks: One hour. Those of you who know me are entirely unsurprised. Those of you who know me but got lost for several hours: I'm not laughing
More under the cut...
Friday, 27 April 2012 at 08:31
As I mentioned a couple of days ago I had to buy a new laptop because Windbringer's old hardware became unstable due to cumulative heat damage. I drive my machines pretty hard (doubly so when programming because I test in several virtual machines) so after five years of steady use it was time to upgrade. So, I upgraded with software design in mind... I purchased a Dell Inspiron 17R
(under the hood it's called the N7010) and customized it online.
To save everyone's eyes I'll put the nitty-gritty behind the cut, starting with a component inventory.
More under the cut...
Friday, 20 April 2012 at 23:30
For everything going on right now, I've had surprisingly little time to work on much of it.
In my last post
I mentioned some of the things I've got going on right now, all of which have been keeping me from writing about other stuff. In the past week or so I've had a half-dozen things, all with roughly equal priority in the scheduler pop up and demand attention. I've been seeing to them as best I can, as often as I can, as efficiently as I can. Now that I've got a few of them mostly taken care of I think I've got some breathing room.
First of all, CISPA
. Read about it. Do something about it. Right now.
Things at work suddenly got interesting and I've been putting in rather a lot of time getting stuff done. It was made apparent to me that I'd best wrap up a few things before it was too late, so I put my nose to the grindstone and hacked away for all I was worth. In the end I think I've tied up a few of the worse loose ends and have freed up compute cycles for the other stuff. Too much multitasking results in poor performance regardless of your processing substrate. At the very least I've bought myself a little time and set a few gears in motion that'll run down more predictably.
Windbringer's been migrated into a new chassis, a Dell Inspiron 17r
that I've customized the hell out of. Once I've got everything tweaked just the way I like it I'll do a life-with-Linux writeup and post it here for public reference. Windbringer seems pretty pleased with his new shell and I'm not complaining overmuch, either. So far we've done a few reasonably short writing projects (around 2500 words each) this week and I'm almost used to his keyboard. I find the new-school chiclet keys more comfortable and responsive to my typing style, though the numeric keypad throw me off a little. I'll put his hardware to a more strenuous test this weekend and pay close attention. Unfortunately, I had to go with a larger keyboard to work around my wrist problems; cumulative heat damage to Windbringer's old shell forced me to purchase a replacement before I was out a laptop (and primary workstation).
I'm setting aside some time this weekend to work on Byzantium Linux. There are some tickets
that need closed and tasks that I wasn't able to finish at the last development sprint. Things are getting crazy at Project Byzantium and we're aiming for the release of v0.2a before CarolinaCon because we're going to be presenting there. The Byzantium core team will also be presenting at HOPE Number Nine
in July about Project Byzantium. Not only do we have to put together another presentation for HOPE (because they've asked for as few re-runs as possible we're forking the Byzantium presentation into a system architecture/deployment model presentation for CarolinaCon and a technical specifications/threat model presentation for HOPE so that each will cover different aspects of the project) but we're also hoping to do release another version (v0.3 something, alpha or beta, we're not sure which) at HOPE and maybe set up a mesh in the Hackerspace Village. On top of all of that, I'll be part of a panel on hacktivism
and its role in the Arab Spring
at HOPE. This might involve interpretative dance
It's not that I don't have stuff to write about right now, believe me, I do). At this particular moment, my available time and energy is better spent working on other things. When I have more compute cycles free I'll write something more substantial.
Sunday, 08 April 2012 at 22:45
Last weekend the Project Byzantium development team assembled once again at HacDC
, this time to close out tickets
because we're getting ready for the second alpha release of Byzantium Linux as well as the launch of the official website. I think we're making pretty good progress - about half of the tickets in the bug tracker are closed (i.e., have been fixed) and we're lining up the next set of features. Some weeks back a group of hackers associated with the Zero State
took over a pub in the UK and put Byzantium Linux through its most difficult test yet, and in the process discovered a number of drawbacks and shortcomings
that we've been busily fixing. I'm fairly confident in the efficiency of a Byzantium mesh network at this time because it stood up to the stress tests they put it through, namely, bootstrapping a new Bitcoin
client (which involves downloading a 1.1 gigabyte database) and setting up a Tor
node on the mesh. They also tested the mesh-to-Internet gatewaying functionality by running their backhaul link through a smartphone and we're told that it worked admirably.
The goal of last weekend's development sprint was to close out as many tickets as we could because we're getting ready for the next alpha release
of Byzantium Linux. To that end, we gathered at HacDC on Friday night, ordered pizza, and sifted through the list of open bugs to find our targets for the weekend. Taking a page from the Zero State's playbook I commandeered one of the whiteboards and set up a kanban
of tickets and hackers, and we claimed the bugs we were going to fix. While the kanban method of tracking was originally developed for assembly line management it also works very well for development sprints
because it helps you keep track of where the sprint is. As each bug is fixed it was erased from the board, and a list that keeps getting shorter is a powerful psychological motivator to keep going.... to fix just one.. more... bug. I think we cleared about half of the kanban that weekend, including some of the most difficult to fix bugs we had open at that time.
More under the cut...